This has been a topic on my mind lately, and I thought I'd give another update.
(My previous post is here: http://www.mothering.com/community/t/1271258/learning-to-be-clean-teaching-kids-to-be-clean-when-you-are-messy)
We are still maintaining a "pretty good" standard of cleanliness and order. The amount of our stuff in the house does ebb and flow. Right now we seem to be in an especially "full of stuff" period... partly because I've been decorating. I think it will be time to do another round of decluttering soon, now that things are coming together. I have all sorts of new storage furniture in my house! It's crazy.
I use my kitchen timer a lot to help me manage doing large tasks. For dishes, I have multiple dish tubs so that I can split up or defer a large load when I don't want to do it right away.
I remember that I want to see my home as a place of comfort and refuge and that it does not need to be perfectly organized or decluttered. On the other hand, I think I know what kind of organizational strategies I have to implement in order to reduce some of my workload. Julie Morgenstern's book, Organizing from the Inside Out was a tremendous help to me in learning how to see what would work for me.
Finally, I did some work in therapy and came to the realization that a great deal of my issues around cleanliness and chores did in fact stem from my childhood experiences of being severely physically punished and criticized for things like not having done the dishes "well enough". I always thought that I had deserved those punishments; now I see them as the irrational result of my mother's rage. I also know that no one is making me clean my house. I choose to clean it, and if I'm too tired to, I don't, or I ask for help. It doesn't make me lazy, it means that I have a good sense of my priorities. I also learned that I have ADD (inattentive) and that I needed help strengthening my executive function skills. So I have been working on all those things. When I realized that, I think I was able to relax a little and not listen to the judge in my head so much, because though I know she means well and is trying to help/protect me, she isn't helpful. I don't live with a person who criticizes or punishes me anymore, thank goodness.
I also have come to see the connection between my environment and my emotions. Visual disorder makes me feel unsettled, so I have made it a priority to decorate in a way that soothes me and the other members in my family. I never believed before that it was worth it for me to do this. I thought it was selfish and frivolous. Now I see that it is a matter of quality of life, and worthy of the time and expenditure. Instead of worrying so much about what colors I liked, or what "scheme" of decorating suited my personality that I never began, or that I had an assemblage of trash picked items which conflicted with each other, I decided that my goal was to have a house that was cozy and comfortable.
This is what I did for my living room in the last few months.
We got a free couch in good condition that in the past I would have thought was "not my style." I decided that it was in fact going to be my style. It's a kind of overstuffed brown thing with nailhead trim. Kind of countryish, so I decided that would be my theme. My walls are painted that rental tan in the living room and white everywhere else. So I found a pair of inexpensive red curtains from Target (total cost $32) that looked nice with the couch. Then I went to the clearance bin and bought fabric remnants (also stuff I would once have considered "not my style" but which I now consider lovely because - it matches!) which coordinated with the curtains, plus some red ticking, plus some onasberg and some trim. This ran me about $70, and in the past I would have balked at that cost. I don't really think that was cheap, but it was affordable for us, although it meant that we ended up buying no groceries and living off farm produce I brought home from work last week. (This was kind of a blessing in disguise - we eat like crap normally, but this week it's been nothing but veggies!) I sewed a slip cover for this chair that I'd trashpicked, and cushions for the couch. I already had the pillowforms, but you can make them cheaply by buying really bed pillows at walmart and using the stuffing. I then took a lamp that someone had given me and bought some of the cheapo craft paint which matched the curtains. I stripped off the old finish of the lamp and added a stencil in red. I'm really proud of how everything turned out, and if I can figure out how to take some pictures, maybe I will post them. It's not perfectly decluttered or decorated. I wouldn't even call our look minimalist, at all. We just have too small a space to be minimalist, and I think after some years of trying to be minimalist, I realize that I prefer cozy and decorated and organized enough, and enough of everything to entertain and share, but not too much. Just enough. DD's toys ended up in an underbed bin with the lid taken off so we could push it under the chest we use as a coffee table. I have a big pile of stuff under my sewing table which I hide with a bit of fabric and hope to replace it all with a dresser or low bookcase. But it's homey, and everything matches enough of the things match and DD knows where her stuff is, and DP says he smiles every time he looks at the little corner with the red chair.
The bedroom theme is oatmeal and white, because I found enough matching lace curtains at goodwill, and enough matching canvas curtains at the VOA. I'm going to make a wallhanging out of some remnant bin burlap and some bits of fabric I have to go over the bed and give the room some color. The bedskirt is a big blue bedspread that I picked up at a church thrift shop for a dollar. I bought two quilts for the bed from TJ Maxx which ran us a hundy total. It took me a year to acquire all these things, and if I were a bit less crunched in my budget, I would probably have just shelled out the money to have them brand new. But, as they say, stuff either costs money or time! :) The bedroom is very restful. Things don't quite match, because we have DD's bed in there too, and the floor plan of our house is occasionally difficult to navigate, but it's what we have to work with. We have a big stack of things on the chest in our bedroom and I usually cover it with a sheet to give it some visual uniformity, but someday we will acquire another dresser or two.
Oh, and DD takes little things and makes "decorations" of them, which I find unbearably adorable.
So, goal accomplished!
By the way, I've learned to become more decisive about crafting. For the slipcover, I cut into a tablecloth I thought I might also like to use on the table. I was afraid I'd regret it, but now that the cover is done and on the cushion, I don't think I'll give it a second thought. And, I can always find another tablecloth! :) I think I've been learning how to prioritize tasks (finishing slipcover > having a fifth tablecloth), and also to see that a thing done imperfectly is in most cases far superior to a thing left undone. I've been practicing making decisions about all sorts of household things, living with the consequences, and finding that I rarely if ever regret anything, and the things I do regret are fixable!
I still have rough days, and most days are not "ideal" in terms of housekeeping or mothering, but, I've been learning to think of my top priorities, and I usually count any day with at least two accomplished a success. (Free play, fresh air, decent meals, good sleep, and tidiness are my goals.) Today we haven't really tidied or had much fresh air, but we slept well, ate well, and she played and I crafted. So the floor is covered in toys and craft supplies that will need to be cleaned, and a sink of dishes that need to be washed. But the bed is made, and we played all day. Right now, DD is painting the bath tub with "her" shampoo (she gets a bottle of VO5 a week in exchange for leaving the Herbal Essences alone) while I am on the internet. :)
It's funny, I actually came to this thread to complain that I get jealous when I see people able to adequately organize larger amounts of stuff because they have greater money and space resources. To say that I like how much stuff we have, which is so little compared to many I know, but that we still feel a little cramped. But instead, after writing all this down, I feel incredibly blessed, like I have so much abundance in my life that I've been able to make a little haven of my little home. And I haven't even talked about the porch and the spray paint and the free chairs or the garden!